The Head and the Tea-seller
Before you read the story
- This story is full of surprises. Have you ever had a really big surprise?
- What surprised you?
- Have you ever done something that surprised someone else?
Now read the story
Once there was a man and his wife. The wife loved her husband. She worked hard for him. She always cooked his favourite meals and she helped him in every way.
But the man was angry with his wife.
"This stupid woman has no children," he thought. "And soon she will grow old. I will divorce her and marry another woman."
So he divorced his wife and married another one. His first wife was unhappy now. She was very poor. No one looked after her.
The man and his new wife waited for a long time, but they didn't have a child. Then, one day, the woman became pregnant.
Her husband was happy.
"Soon I will have a son," he thought.
At last the baby was born. But oh, what a terrible disappointment! The baby had no arms and no legs. It had no body at all. It was only a head!
"Take it away!" the man's wife said. "It's a horrible thing! I don't want to see it again!"
So the man put the head in a sack. He took it to the road and left it there. Then he went away.
Soon, some travellers came down the road. The head began to jump about in the sack.
"Help! Take me out! Help!" the head began to shout.
The travellers stopped.
"What is inside this sack?" they asked each other.
One of them opened it, and they all saw the head. They were frightened, and they wanted to run away.
"Stop!" said the head. "Please don't leave me here, or I'll die!"
"What shall we do with you then?" asked the travellers.
"Take me to the town," the head said. "Find a tea-shop and leave me there."
So the travellers picked up the head and carried it to the town. They stopped at the first tea-shop.
"Here's something for you," they said to the tea-seller, and they gave the head to him.
The tea-seller was very surprised.
"I don't want this thing," he said, and he began to carry the head out of his shop.
But the head began to talk to him.
"Tea-seller," he said. "Listen to me. Do you want to be rich?"
The tea-seller stopped.
"Yes, of course," he said.
"Then I will help you," said the head. "Look after me, give me food and keep me here. Soon, I promise you, you will be rich."
So the head stayed with the tea-seller, and the tea-seller looked after him. Every day, the head gave the tea-seller his advice.
"Buy your tea in this place today," he said.
Or, "Don't buy tea today. The price is not good."
The tea-seller always listened to the head. Soon, he became rich.
Now, in that town there was a king. The king had no sons and only one daughter. The daughter was ready to be married. All the young men in the town wanted to marry the king's daughter. They came to the king one by one.
"Please, sir," they all said. "Let me marry your daughter."
"What will you give me?" asked the king.
"What do you want?" the young men asked.
The king asked for many things. Some things were too big. Some things were too small. Some things were from countries far, far away. Nobody could find the things that the king wanted.
The head heard about the king's daughter. He said to the tea-seller, "My friend, this is a chance for me. Go to the king and say to him, 'My friend wants to marry your daughter. What do you want for her?'"
So the tea-seller went to see the king. He went into the palace and greeted him.
"Sir," he said. "My friend wants to marry your daughter. Tell me, what must he give you?"
"A camel is a fine thing," said the king.
"That's easy," thought the merchant, and he smiled.
"A he-camel," said the king. "A big, strong camel with good teeth is a very fine thing."
The merchant laughed.
"I will find the best camel in the world for you, sir," he said, and he began to leave the room.
"Wait," said the king. "The camel must come here, into my palace. It must greet me and speak to me in my own language."
The tea-seller stopped laughing.
"That's impossible, sir!" he said.
"If your friend cannot find this camel," said the king, "he cannot marry my daughter."
Sadly, the tea-seller went home.
The head was waiting for him.
"What did the king say?" he asked the tea-seller.
The tea-seller shook his head.
"My poor young friend," he said. "It's impossible. The king wants a camel, a big, strong he-camel with good teeth."
"But that's easy," said the head.
"No, no," said the tea-seller. "The camel must go to the king's palace and greet him, and speak to him in his own language."
"Very well," said the head. "Now take me to the camel market."
So the tea-seller took the head to the camel market. They looked at many camels, and at last the head chose one.
"Now," said the head, "take this camel to the palace."
The tea-seller was frightened.
"But this is only a camel," he said. "It cannot greet the king, or talk in his language."
"Don't be frightened," said the head. "Everything will be all right."
So the tea-seller took the camel to the king's palace. The room was full of people. Everyone was looking at him. The tea-seller's knees were shaking.
The king saw the tea-seller and the camel beside the door.
"What is this?" he shouted. "Why has this man brought a camel inside my palace?"
"Please, sir, you asked for a camel," said the tea-seller.
Then the king remembered his words. He began to laugh.
"This is only a camel," he said. "It cannot greet me, or talk to me in my own language."
The camel suddenly lifted its head.
"Peace be with you, sir," it said.
"Ah! Oh! How wonderful!" everyone said.
The king stood up, and went to the camel.
"Can you really speak?" he asked. "Was that your voice?"
"Yes," answered the camel. "I can speak, and it was my voice."
The tea-seller was even more surprised than the king, but he was very happy for his friend.
"Sir," he said. "You asked for this animal and I have brought it to you!"
The king looked at him.
"And now my daughter must marry your friend," he said. "Who is this young man? What kind of man is he?"
The tea-seller was very frightened now.
"You - you will see, sir," he said.
Quickly, he ran home.
"Head!" he called out. "Listen to this! The camel greeted the king and spoke to him in his own language! Now the king wants to give you his daughter! You must go to the palace tomorrow. Oh, what shall we do?"
"What shall we do?" answered the head. "We will go to the palace, of course, and I will marry the princess."
"But - " said the tea-seller.
"Everything will be all right," said the head. "I promise."
So the next day, the tea-seller took the head to the palace in a bag. The king and queen and all their guests were waiting for them.
"Where is the young man?" asked the king.
The poor tea-seller could not look at the king. His knees were shaking.
"He is here, sir," he said, and he opened the bag.
"Yes, I am here," said the head. "And I have come to marry your daughter."
"Oh, oh! How terrible!" said everyone.
The king was angry and sad.
"My poor daughter, what have I done?" he thought.
But it was too late now.
"I made a promise," he said, "and I will keep my promise. My daughter is yours."
So the head and the princess were married. The feast went on for a long time. At last it was finished. The king and the queen took the princess and the head to the bedroom, and shut the door. The princess was crying loudly.
At once, the head became a handsome young man! He had arms and legs and a body! The princess stopped crying, and looked at him. She fell in love with him at once.
The king and queen did not sleep that night.
"Oh, my poor daughter," the queen said again and again. "Husband, what have you done?"
Early the next morning, the king and queen went to the bedroom door. They were very worried.
"How is our girl?" they said to each other. "Is she all right?"
Suddenly, the door opened and the princess came out. She was laughing. She was happy.
"My husband and I are hungry," she said. "Please give us some breakfast."
The head, who was now a young man, came out after her.
"Yes," he said, "we are hungry." And he smiled at the king and queen.
Everyone was very happy. After a year, the princess gave birth to a son. The king gave his kingdom to his son-in-law. The tea-seller became the richest merchant in the country.
But the new king's old father was not happy. He and his wife had no more children, and they were very poor.
"He was cruel to his first wife because she had no children," everyone said. "And then he threw away his only child. For these things, God has punished him."
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